Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Category: Non-Fiction (Page 1 of 3)

Book Review: True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News

True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News – Cindy L. Otis – Feiwel and Friends – Published July 28 2020

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Synopsis

A former CIA analyst unveils the true history of fake news and gives readers tips on how to avoid falling victim to it in this highly designed informative YA nonfiction title.

“Fake news” is a term you’ve probably heard a lot in the last few years, but it’s not a new phenomenon. From the ancient Egyptians to the French Revolution to Jack the Ripper and the founding fathers, fake news has been around as long as human civilization. But that doesn’t mean that we should just give up on the idea of finding the truth.

My thoughts

This title caught my eye as I was teaching our Year 7 classes a unit on Fake News. It is a perfectly timed and titled novel and it works as a perfect resource for our unit. The author, Cindy L. Otis is a former CIA analyst and that gives credit and interest to the book. She brings an interesting perspective to this mix of fake news history and skills and tips for identifying and responding to fake news.

I was thoroughly impressed by the writing style of this book. I thought I might flick through it, but I found myself engaged in the text and the way Otis weaves the story. Each chapter is compelling and told in an easy-to-read way. There are funny asides and the language used is as approachable to teens as it is to adults.

I’m happy to report that the examples and exercises used in the novel are not all USA focused. The book starts with an exploration of fake news through history, including tales of Jack the Ripper and Ancient Egyptians to monarchs, revolutions and wars. Then comes the introduction of telegraphs, radio, television, internet and social media. Each chapter shows how the changes in society and technology influenced and were influenced by fake news. Each part in the laying out of the history of fake news is given an interesting story and example of the impact of the fake news.

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Book Review: The Infographic Guide to Grammar

The Infographic Guide to Grammar: A Visual Reference for Everything You Need to Know – Jara Kern, Carissa Lytle – Adams Media – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

This illustrated guide to English grammar gives you everything you need for a better understanding of how to write and punctuate correctly. From proper comma usage to the correct form of there, their, or they’re—understanding grammar has never been easier.

Is it who or whom? Affect or effect? And what is a prepositional phrase? With The Infographic Guide to Grammar, you’ll learn the answers to all of these questions, and so much more. Filled with colorful, easy-to-understand entries, this book includes topics like:

–Basic sentence structure
–The parts of speech
–Common mistakes and how to avoid them

My thoughts

Is it wrong of me to say I really want to cut this book up and hang all the pages up around my library like beautiful posters? Well, right or wrong that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I really think this book should come in a pull-apart, poster version so everyone can see, use and be helped by the colourful infographics that cover everything from punctuation to commonly confused words.

Five chapters break the content down into sections: parts of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, writing style and common mistakes. Each sub-section, nouns for example, are given a two page spread infographic that provides a basic explanation, uses, fun facts, more details, and handy to know tips. All this, presented as beautiful, highly colourful infographics.

The graphic design work in this book is fabulous. The information given is simple. Clear examples are provided. The layout of each infographic is pleasing to the eye and did I mention colour? So much colour, different texts, and fun graphics. There isn’t a lot of text on each page and the font is big and bold.

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Book Review: Spirits of the Coast

Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in science, art and history – Martha Black (ed), Lorne Hammond (ed), Gavin Hanke (ed), Nikki Sanchez (ed) – The Royal British Columbia Museum – Published 15 May 2020

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Synopsis

Spirits of the Coast brings together the work of marine biologists, Indigenous knowledge keepers, poets, artists, and storytellers, united by their enchantment with the orca. Long feared in settler cultures as “killer whales,” and respected and honored by Indigenous cultures as friends, family, or benefactors, orcas are complex social beings with culture and language of their own. With contributors ranging from Briony Penn to David Suzuki, Gary Geddes and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, this collection brings together diverse voices, young and old, to explore the magic, myths, and ecology of orcas. A literary and visual journey through past and possibility, Spirits of the Coast illustrates how these enigmatic animals have shaped us as much as our actions have impacted them, and provokes the reader to imagine the shape of our shared future.

My thoughts

As a lover of all thing orca I knew I just had to read this book. And it was beautiful from cover to cover. There are many books out there about orcas, from introductory marine science books for kids to exposés about orcas in captivity. Spirits of the Coast captures all of that, as well as the elements I have often found to be missing from previous books, most notably that of an indigenous perspective. Through stories, poems, retellings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, museum exhibits, reflections, and articles, Spirits of the Coast captures a wide perspective on the amazing orcas and their history of interactions with humans. From the heartbreaking and despairing to the hopeful and uplifting, Spirits of the Coast is a powerful compendium.

Spirits of the Coast is divided into three main sections: Connection, Captivity and Consciousness. Throughout each, the power and magnificence of the orca is clearly portrayed. There is respect and awe and it seeps through every word, photograph and artwork.

At all times this is a book about orcas from a human perspective. That perspective spans many generations, cultures, opinions and angles. I loved that it contains many works of art, stories, and retellings from an indigenous perspective. Other books on orcas and their interactions with humans often neglect this perspective. It is so important.

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Book Review: The Spirit of Springer

The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca – Amanda Abler and Levi Hastings (ill) – Little Bigfoot – Published 24 March 2020

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Synopsis

In 2002, a killer whale calf was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound. This picture book follows the true story of her identification as a member of the A4 pod, a family of Northern Resident orcas living off the coast of British Columbia, and the team of scientists who worked together against all odds to save her from starvation and reunite her with her family.

The challenges of capturing Springer, transporting her north from Puget Sound to Canadian waters, and coordinating her release to facilitate a hopeful acceptance back into her family are brought to life.

My thoughts

The Spirit of Springer is a delightful story that retells the true events of the rescue and successful release of killer whale calf, Springer. The soft illustrations bring the events of the story to life. It’s a detailed and compelling story.

The writing does a fantastic job of placing the reader directly in the story, and setting the scene. The book is told from the perspective of the humans that interacted with Springer, from the ferry worker who spotter her alone to the scientists who worked to reunite her with her family. While this was a project that drew many people together, this book focuses on the work of Dr David Huff, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and Dr Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist.

The book explains both the media attention Springer received, the concern of the public and the details of her rescue, rehabilitation and release. Built into the story are explanations of scientific terminology, like dialect.

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Book Review: Bringing Back the Wolves

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem – Jude Isabella and Kim Smith (ill.) – Kids Can Press – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

An unintended experiment in Yellowstone National Park, in which an ecosystem is devastated and then remarkably rehabilitated, provides crucial lessons about nature’s intricate balancing act.

In the 1800s, hunters were paid by the American government to eliminate threats to livestock on cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. They did such a good job that, by 1926, no gray wolf packs were left in the park. Over the following decades, virtually every other part of the park’s ecosystem was affected by the loss of the wolves — from the animals who were their prey, to the plants that were the food for that prey, to the streams that were sheltered by those plants — and the landscape was in distress. So, starting in 1995, in an attempt to reverse course, the government reintroduced gray wolves to the park. Over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. It’s a striking transformation, and a fascinating tale of life’s complicated interdependencies.

My thoughts

Bringing Back the Wolves – How A Predator Restored An Ecosystem explains about the history of the wolf in the Yellow Stone National Park in the US. From the hunting of wolves in the 1800s and the result this had on the Park to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, this book explores the impact of an apex predator and how the Park has changed since the wolves have returned.

There is a wonderful sense of nature fixing its self as this book clearly steps out the impact of the wolves. Bringing Back the Wolves does a fantastic job of clearly and simply articulating the complex relationships involved and the intricacies of the impacts.

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Book Review: Your Team Loves Mondays…Right?

Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? – Kristin Sherry – Black Rose Writing – Published 20 February 2020

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Synopsis

According to Gallup research, 9 out of 10 people are not naturally wired to manage people. Yet, two-thirds of managers are thrown into supervising people without direction. Kristin Sherry had a similar experience leading a team of 31 people for the first time without preparation.

Packed with practical tools, frameworks and tips to grow your confidence and people management capabilities, this book will help you discover if management is the best fit for your talents, reveal directing and delegating styles, offer strategies and tactics for hiring, onboarding, training, developing others, and retaining and offboarding employees.

Readers will find step-by-step support to create development plans, give feedback, motivate others and facilitate feedback sessions in this toolbox of actionable guidance.

Hard learned lessons combined with experience coaching managers to improve their skills are delivered in this easy-to-follow guide to earn your team’s respect, get better results and help your team love Mondays.

My thoughts

The title of this book is what caught my eye. I thought it was the perfect way of capturing when a team can have some difficulties working together, when personalities get in the way of productivity or working together. Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? is a practical guide to management, and encompasses a range of topics from key management traits to the entire process through onboarding to offbording.

This book is suitable for managers or for would-be managers. It’s also helpful to those of us who are not managers but must work in a team and under managers. There are practical tips and plenty of examples. Kristin A. Sherry writes from her vast practical experience.

The book starts with breaking down the most effective characteristics of managers and moves into an assessment for the reader’s management style and fit for managerial work. The book then moves into the many possible stages of management, from hiring workers, induction training, working with their teams and training them up to the way in which to best go about discharging employees.

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Book Review: Have You Eaten Grandma?

Have You Eaten Grandma? Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar and Good English – Gyles Brandreth – Atria Books – Published 13 August 2019 (first pub 2018)

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Synopsis

Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.

My thoughts

In the same vein as Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Have You Eaten Grandma? plays on the importance of grammar and punctuation, even in today’s social media and technology-driven world, with a comprehensive and humorous layout of all the rules, memory devices, and tips and tricks you’ll need to master the power of the English language.

Chapter one, ‘Basic Punctuation or Have You Eaten Grandma?’, begins the foray into punctuation, followed by ‘Dashes, Hyphens, Slashes and more’, and ‘Apostrophes, Possession and Omission’. Brandreth also covers spelling in this book, with common (and sometimes less than helpful) rules, guides to prefixes and silent letters. There are also chapters on British English versus American English, abbreviations with a fresh inclusion of many that are commonly used today and on social media (some with a very humorous twist), slang, and rules for good communication. There are also fun sections that keen wordsmiths will enjoy, such as the A to Z of useful Scrabble words, and new words.

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Book Review: Orca

Orca: How We Came To Know And Love The Ocean’s Greatest Predator – Jason M. Colby – Oxford University Press – Published 1 June 2018

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Synopsis

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean’s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World’s first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orca is the definitive history of how the feared and despised “killer” became the beloved “orca”–and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

My thoughts

Orca: How We Came To Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator is an incredible book. It seemingly borders the divide between research tome and story, drawing upon well-written narrative to convey a thorough recall of the history of the interactions between humans and orca.

Like many, I have watched the documentary Blackfish. Like many others, I have been long enthralled with the awesome power and grace of the Orcinus Orca, starting from my childhood love of whales and dolphins. I have seen students complete assignments on the now-popular aforementioned documentary, but wondered what parts of the story might have been missing, what other truths there are to be revealed about the history of humans and orcas. It was with great pleasure that I discovered Orca. Not only could I satisfy my own curiosity, but I could add to our library’s collection and our students’ research a source that provides a thorough investigation of this history, and one that considers all sides of the story.

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Book Review: WordPress Websites for Business

WordPress Websites for Business: How Anyone Can Maximize Website Performance and Results – Michael Cordova – WildBlue Press – Published 12 December 2017

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Synopsis

Ok, so you’re company’s team has finally agreed to build a new website, but all you know is what you knew when you built the last one, and it failed miserably. Nobody in the company wants to go down that same road again, but at the same time, nobody knows how to do it any different than the last time.

Just like so many other things in life, doing it right doesn’t take much more time than doing it wrong. It just takes the knowledge of how to do it right the first time. In the case of building a website, it takes the knowledge of many others to get optimal results from your website, and this book brings them all together in one concise place for your reference.

I have seen many people/companies make mistakes in the creation of their website. Their mistakes have led to Google penalties that they never recovered from. Simple preparations and settings discussed in the book ensure that you don’t make those same mistakes. Each new website has different scenarios, and those particulars are discussed so you can customize your installation to show you how to avoid making critical, and possibly crippling or complete show-stopping mistakes that can set you back for months or years.

My thoughts

This book crossed my path at the exact time that I needed it. I have been using WordPress for a number of years on a free blogging basis, but have recently been asked to coordinate, design and build an externally hosted WordPress-based website for an advocacy group. Everyday I was learning something new and finding that I had endless questions that needed to be answered. WordPress Websites for Business was the ideal solution to those questions. There is something about a book that seems more trustworthy than a variety of random website sources (I guess I am a traditional librarian at heart). However, WordPress Websites for Business has an informal, website feel to it. Short chapters and an informal, personal writing style contribute to this feeling. The author frequently references his own experiences and his qualifications for writing such a book and links to examples.

The first section of this book briefly outlines the book’s purpose, intended audience, and the author’s experience. The next section then outlines a short history of the internet, giving context to some of the techniques and technology used, CSS for example. The remainder of the book is then split into a range of sections which vary from SEO optimisation and security, to plugins and child themes. The chapter headings themselves are quite helpful, “Wordpress.com vs. WordPress.org – Always Pick the Latter for Business”, for example.

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Book Review: School Libraries and Student Learning

School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide for School Leaders – Rebecca J. Morris – Harvard Education Press – Published 4 August 2015

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Synopsis

Innovative, well-designed school library programs can be critical resources for helping students meet high standards of college and career readiness. In School Libraries and Student Learning, Rebecca J. Morris shows how school leaders can make the most of their school libraries to support ambitious student learning. She offers practical strategies for collaboration between school leaders, teachers, and librarians to meet schoolwide objectives in literacy, assessment, student engagement, and inquiry-based learning.
Topics include: establishing “makerspaces” and “learning commons” to support student-centered learning; developing a schoolwide focus on literacy across multiple formats and devices; redesigning lesson plans that foster inquiry and critical thinking across classrooms and grade levels; supporting collaboration between teachers and librarians in instruction and assessment; and using the library to strengthen ties between school, family, and community.

My thoughts

As a librarian I am always eager to learn more about the amazing profession I find myself in, how school libraries are changing, and how this should reflect practice. I also love learning about what other school libraries are doing. School Libraries and Student Learning by Rebecca J Morris is a wonderful resource for school librarians and school leaders. It covers a huge range of topics, from the fundamental principles of libraries and librarians, to specialised spaces within the library or learning commons, as well as guides, checklists, and real-life school examples.

School Libraries and Student Learning is written for school leaders. It seeks to highlight the importance of school libraries, school librarians and the way in which these are both integral to an integrated school learning system. There are eight chapters, as well as a school library checklist appendix.

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